These are some shots going up Vernon’s Stairway to Heaven, a fairly famous climb on the AT. You’ll see Herman and Chris and dog Grace making the ascent with us. If you look carefully you’ll see that Chris is not wearing shoes.
“I always wanted to do that” she said about doing the barefoot ascent.
I think this was the final crossing into NY! Massive style points!
We decided to drop down a 0.9 mi side trail into Greenwood Lake, NY for a stay at the Linden Motel. What a great host (Ravo aka “Ron”) at a great location right on the lake. Super chill, quaint and peaceful.
After a great rest we took off up the hill to resume a short rain-day hike (never did rain until evening).
Day 11 was a technical day with loads of elevation change. We agree this early NY section was one of the more challenging of the almost 1400 miles so far – for us, at least, and maybe for reasons unique to our June hike(?).
One gent behind us took a backward fall on one of dicey climbs. Fortunately he was okay, though it took awhile to find a pole that went airborne during his yard sale. That was unsettling. I wanted to be wearing a helmet.
Across about 13 miles we had around 3300 feet in ascent and about the same in descent. Not alarming but for the way it was packaged. Very steep and technical, generally experienced in bursts. Lots of falling hazards which added a mental component.
It’s hard to explain the energy – sort of a presence. There was recent bear activity in the area so there was an awareness for uninvited visitors. And that night we were reminded that Whip-poor-wills rule the darkness – as in all night long with their loud, haunting song.
Some kind of creepy cultural references to Whip-poor-wills, too. Like the New England legend that says they can sense the soul departing the body and can capture it as it flees.
Or the earlier Native American and general American folk belief that the singing of the birds is a death omen.
So, we decided it was a good idea to finally listen to the steady stream of weird cues that occurred during the trip to pack up all of the magnificent wins we gained. Although we had a couple more weeks we could’ve gone, it just felt like we would be pressing luck. Hard to explain but sometimes you just gotta follow your gut, right?
Remember the horrendous car wreck we missed on the way out east? Then Jen was ill for the first two days (hiking with nausea, inability to eat and a throat that felt full of needles – NO FUN). RJ’s fuel tank that always felt empty – along with a dangerous lack of focus. Add to this, the super weird vibes the last couple days of the hike. Finally, the last morning before hiking out, the really weird and scary RJ allergy attack (“At what point do I grab JJ’s Epipen?? I usually do not have allergies and I don’t know what to do!!!”)
As long distance hiking goes, moments of bliss and brilliance co-mingle with despair and “agony”. This trip was no different in that sense. As always, wouldn’t trade it for anything!
The last day we toured around Fort Montgomery NY. Really neat place with Revolutionary War history. And, the AT passes over Bear Mountain bridge and straight through the Zoo! (Factoid: The Zoo’s bear pen is the lowest elevation on the AT). But the Zoo will be the next trip!
If you have been reading this blog you know what a zero day is…a day on a hike where zero miles are made.
When Herman and Chris were in town we took a zero to have some fun. We went to ANOTHER creamery – Bellvale Creamery – making people happy since 1819…yes!!
To maximize our local opportunity we took our hotelier’s suggestion to check out the former Playboy club at Big Gorge. This was a swinging place from about 1972-1982, just outside of NYC, with who knows what kind of Hefner debauchery going down.
However, it certainly had some genuine historical events take place there, like having Howard Cosell calling top heavy weight fights with names like Clay, Norton and Frazier.
But now it is an enormous, dilapidated wreck that has missed a handful of resuscitation attempts. Creepy.
The trail weaves between NJ and NY for a while. Western NJ has some beautiful pasture settings. This is also the start to a special section of the trail where amazing stops abound at just about every road crossing. This includes Heaven Hill Creamery (yay ice cream, apple cider donuts and local craft soda).
Our trail family (tramily) friends Herman and Chris drove up from VA to spend some time with us here. They loved hiking the area last summer. So, us being here was a great excuse to drive up!
Very nice conditions on Hike Day 7. We were all set for rain, which is fine, but then got handed a bright sunny day.
Secret Shelter, above, was really quaint. It’s not a sanctioned AT shelter so the old sign just reads: “Well Water”. the water is hand-pumped through a no-freeze device. The water then gushes, is cold and tastes great.
We moved along after a rest at Secret Shelter, landing in Unionville, NY. What an awesome small town! Kids riding an old junker mini-bike up and down Main St. Others on skate boards, razors and the one kid who can ride a wheelie A REALLY LONG TIME!!
Pennsylvania is known for rocks. Big and plenty. It’s hard to find a rhythm when you’re looking for a spot to place every step. But as we move deeper into NJ the terrain is losing some of this and is providing a quicker, softer experience = more and more-pleasant miles. And despite its reputation, NJ has some exquisite scenery.
And as we set up camp for the night, “Springer” and “Old Stag” (perfect name for latter) arrive to tell us we missed the black bear AND the rattler. The snake was near the mountaintop pavilion (pictured above) and the bear was somewhere further back. Yikes!
Wow…lots to report from the first 5 days! Jen, Lydia and Rog at the trailhead in eastern PA. Had a ten or eleven mile day planned that includes a really challenging climb out of Lehigh Gap PA
It was hard, especially being the first day. But after getting that one out of the way, the next three hike days with Lydia was fabulous. She managed to find her trail name by Sunday.
Lydia is caring about nature and is a gifted hiker. It’s like she’s in front of you and then in an instant she is gone! Uphill, downhill – it doesn’t matter.
Girls got stride.
And there you have it…”Stride”!!
Here is a weird experience that isn’t too uncommon for a trail town. We walked into Wind Gap PA for a bite of dinner and the owner of the restaurant is such a trail fan that he lets hikers camp in the back. Grass was freshly mowed and we tented not too far from the feral cat “refuge”.
It was a remarkable and sad 17 hour drive to make the 13 hour trip to NoBo mile 1255 – where we left off pre-pandemic.
23 miles of I-80 was closed in both directions in Indiana due to a terrible accident about 30 minutes ahead of us. Such an acute reminder of how fortunate we are and how fragile this existence is.
Notwithstanding, Jen, Lydia and Roger soldier on to meet our shuttle by 8am at Mohican Outdoor Center near the PA/NJ border. From there we’ll get a lift 53 trail miles south to begin the 2022 hike with very special hike partner, daughter Lydia. We’ll make our way north 53 miles back to MOC in about 4 days or so. Lyd will head back home to IA and we’ll continue NoBo for the month of June.
Despite the sobering start, we’ve already had lots of laughs and look forward to making some more memories. We send special appreciation to son Ryan who graciously agreed to care for hounds and home during our trip.
Our Triple Crown highpoint in Virginia was delightful, but also exacerbated the inevitable aches and pains from trekking up and down mountains in rainy, HOT, and humid weather. The timing seemed right to “zero” (rest) while enjoying our children, family, pups, cat and the leisures of the civilized world.
It’s all good, if a bit disconcerting to be uprooted from the “normalcy” of the trail. We’re enjoying everyday comforts more and feeling physical pain less.
In short, it’s great to be home…and yet recognize a yearning to return to the backcountry wilderness.
Current thinking has us finishing the last bit of VA in Aug/Sept, and our last “half” (940 miles or so) in 2020.
For now we’re looking forward to reconnecting and appreciate all the thoughts, prayers, and comments along the way.